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The cold, hard tile of the ladies' room wall felt good against her cheek as Maggie attempted to regroup. Pushing up from the floor, she brushed off the seat of her pants and straightened her blouse, performing a mental body scan. Breathing back to normal. Pulse slowing.
Good newsshe was going to survive.
Of course, she always did. If only her brain could believe it.
Knowing she had to get back, Maggie blotted her face with a wet paper towel and tossed it into the trash on her way out.
Her director shot her a look of concern as she strode into the radio station's production booth. Tall, lanky and in his mid-twenties, David Talbot had been her right-hand man since Chicago Great Lakes University had asked her to start a talk show nine months ago. A communications student, David had jumped at the chance to work here. With raised eyebrows, he silently asked, Are you okay?
With a nod of reassurance, she returned to her desk. Her portion of the studio was the sound booth, a small room just past David's area, separated by a wall of glass through which they could see each other. As David cued her, she took a sip of water with a hint of lime before speaking into the microphone in front of her.
"Welcome back to Live with Levine. I'm Dr. Margaret Levine." Her wilted confidence bloomed again as she pulled her theoretical therapist's cloak around her. "I've got Dan from downtown Chicago on the line with me. Before the commercial break, Dan, you were telling us about your personal tragedy. Your wife was recently shot and killed during a mugging."
"Yes." The man's voice clogged with tears. "I don't know what I'll do without her."
"It sounds like you really miss her." Maggie's heart tore for him as a flash of her brother's smiling face hit her in the chest like a battering ram. Her breathing hitched and her pulse rate picked up as the image was quickly replaced with one of Brad lying in a pool of blood.
"Tell us about your wife," Maggie prompted gently, focusing on her breathing. As Dan from downtown talked through his tears about his wife of five years, she struggled against the urge to flee and curl up in that bathroom stall again. The details of Dan's tragedy were so similar to hers. She couldn't help but think about it, and the remembered images threatened to overwhelm her.
Especially today, of all days.
"Thank you, Dan, for sharing your story with us. It takes a lot of courage to face each day as you have." She knew that firsthand. "I'm so sorry for your loss. Check in with us and let us know how you're doing, okay?"
The man drew in a shaky breath and blew it out. "Okay. Thanks for listening, Dr. Levine."
"Anytime." She looked at the board in front of her, lit up with lights, each one representing a person who needed a listening ear, and picked the next one in the queue. It had already been a long night in the city of Chicago, and still there were people who needed to tell their stories.
Maggie glanced at the computer screen, skimming David's notes on the caller. "Hello, Frantically Frustrated, how can we help tonight?"
A woman's voice answered. "My mother-in-law is insane."
Maggie's lips twitched. Now here was something that wouldn't make her think of her brother. Or panic attacks. "How so?"
"She wants to move in with us. And that would totally make me insane." Through the glass partition, Maggie saw David chuckling.
"And what does your husband say about this?"